Friday Finds #235 Best-of-November

Happy end of November! Here are a few photos from my family’s gathering. We love turkey day!

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving with your family and will take time this weekend to rest and recharge for the season ahead.

Now I can say, welcome to Advent/Christmas! 🙂



A Holiday Wishlist for Music Teachers and 10 Supplemental Collections for Intermediate Piano Students (Ashley Danyew)



10 Films About Piano Players You Might Want to See (Doug Hanvey | Portland Piano Lab)

What a wonderful list!



My next public playlist on Spotify: Advent.



Two baked oatmeal recipes we recently enjoyed: Chocolate Peanut Butter Baked Oatmeal and Cinnamon Raisin (Sweet Savory and Steph)



After reading my post on organizing printed music, Natalie has been cleaning out and updating her own music files. Check out her before and after photos and get a free download of folder labels. (Natalie Weber | Music Matters Blog)



Piano Recital Showdown: Zoom Recital vs. Playlist Recital vs. In-Person Recital (Rebekah Maxner)



Create a Virtual Holiday Recital in 5 Minutes (or less!) (Chrissy Ricker)



Chrissy also has a great round-up of holiday resources including ear-training activities, improv, lead sheets, and more. (Chrissy Ricker)



Speaking of holiday resource round-ups, I’ll add mine to the mix – December Fun: Christmas Games and Activities for Your Studio (Piano Pantry)



A few years ago I started choosing a new devotional book to read each Advent season.

This year I choose a book recommended by my pastor – Clarifying Christmas by Mike Edmisten.

Do you have any favorite Advent reads? Share in the comments!



A new worksheet on Identifying Ledger Lines and Who buys the music books – teacher or student? (Joy Morin | Color in my Piano)



10 Rules for Holiday Gift Giving (The Lazy Genius Podcast)


Big Discounts on My Favorite Recipe and Password Manager Apps

There are lots of resources and tools I recommend here on Piano Pantry to help you be more organized and productive in your personal and studio life. Find a list of those resources here: Recommended Resources.

Two of those are LastPass, my favorite password manager, and Paprika, my favorite recipe app.

Both of them have big sales going on this week.


All four versions of Paprika are on sale from now until the end of November.

Sale prices will vary by country but the currently displayed prices on their website, the App Store, and the Play Store are indeed the correct prices.

Some of my favorite features of this app are:

  1. You can purchase a desktop version
  2. It has a built-in browser so you can browse the internet directly in the app and download recipes directly from there
  3. You can download a browser bookmarklet so you can download recipes from the browser you use on a daily basis.

iOS and Android apps are currently 40% off:
Paprika 3 for iOS
Paprika 3 for Android

MacOS and Windows apps are currently 50% off:
Get Paprika 3 for macOS
Get Paprika 3 for Windows


Gone are the days of repeating the same password over and over or using the same one but changing one number every month, or, like my dad, writing it down on a half-dozen index cards (oh my!).

Some of my favorite features of the premium version of Last Pass are:

  1. Get access to all devices.
  2. Generate passwords that are secure and customizable
  3. It’s more than just for passwords! Save:
    • Health Insurance Informaiton
    • Drivers Licenses
    • Credit Cards
    • Bank Accounts
    • Wi-Fi Passwords

Save and secure personal information in one location.


Get 25%

On November 23-29th, 2021, Lastpass is running a 25% off sale for annual plans.

Don’t miss out on this great opportunity!

Signup here.

P.S. Please note that Piano Pantry is an affiliate with LastPass. All this means is that if you purchase using my link I will get a small percentage back without it costing you extra. This helps offset the fee of running this blog. Thank you in advance for using my link!


My Perfect Homemade Student Christmas Gift: Hot Cocoa

If there’s one type of gift you will likely never see me give students, it’s a hand-made craft.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with those types of gifts – I think they’re fabulous. I am just a TERRIBLE crafter!

Luckily, we have Joy Morin for those types of student gifts. She has lots of great homemade ideas over on her site including paper ornaments, glass ornaments, and mittens.

What my students WILL get from me is some kind of baked good or food item. My favorite over the years has been a homemade hot chocolate mix.

Let’s take an important poll first: Do you call it “Hot Cocoa” or “Hot Chocolate”? Put your vote in the comments! 🙂

Since I cycle through different gifts each year so students who are with me for a long time don’t always get the same thing, I’ve actually only done this twice!

Hot chocolate is such as fun idea though because what kid doesn’t love hot chocolate?


Making Homemade Hot (You Fill in the Blank! 🙂 )

Consider recipes that are made with powdered milk so students only have to add hot water.  Along those same lines, I would advise you to not do the layered-type cocoa mix where you have to dump the whole container into a pot to mix.

My favorite recipe is from Cook’s Country, but since it’s a paid recipe service, here are some other versions you could try from Pioneer Woman and AllRecipes. 

What they all have in common:

  • Dry milk powder
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Confectioner’s sugar (dissolves better than white sugar)

(P.S. the only thing Cook’s Country adds is white chocolate chips and a bit of salt.)

Since the CC recipe uses white chocolate chips, they have you mix the recipe in a food processor to get the chips into smaller pieces so they will dissolve better/quicker.

Unfortunately, this is what happens when you process dry powder stuff in a food processor. It’s a blustery mess! LOL

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Music-Themed Bookmarks for Student Christmas Gifts

What are some of the most typical Christmas gifts for students you can think of? Ornaments, candy, and hand-crafted goodies likely came to mind, am I right?

They sure are. I myself shared lots of ideas in these categories (well, except hand-crafted because that is definitely not me!) in this post:  Christmas Gift Ideas for Music Students: Who Couldn’t Use Another Idea.


Not once in my years of teaching had I thought about giving students bookmarks until a few years ago when I discovered magnetic bookmarks. 

I don’t know how long magnetic bookmarks existed before I discovered them, but whoever invented them must be the most brilliant person ever. Ha! OK, I exaggerate, but how smart is that?!

Find these Music-themed magnetic bookmarks on Amazon.

At $3.95 per pack, they are admittedly on the pricier side of a student gift but if time is a highly valued commodity as opposed to cost or if you have a smaller studio, these would be really fun to give out.

Another option would be to not necessarily give each student a whole pack but simply lay them out and let each student choose one.

You could also put together a little goody bag and include 1-4 of these along with a music-themed pencil and some candy.




One year, I did give my students a metal treble clef bookmark but at the time of purchase, I thought they were ornaments. Oops! The tassel means they actually could function in this manner though!

At $13.00 for a pack of 10, you can’t go wrong with such a cute, economical gift.

You will find these types of bookmarks on Amazon listed as wedding favors, packaged in a cute little box.

Here’s another set I found but haven’t given out myself (yet!). It has both treble clefs as well as musical notes, which would make for a fun variety.



Lastly, don’t forget Etsy is always a great play to look for students’ gifts including music bookmarks!

Still looking for more ideas? Check out this Christmas Gift Round-Up post.



Have you ever given your students musical bookmarks? If so, share links in the comments so we can see other variations!


Friday Finds #234: Thanksgiving-Style



Even though we’re approaching Thanksgiving, as music teacher’s we’ve already started on Christmas music. Here’s a great post from Janna Williamson: How to Teach Holiday Music.

P.S. She recommends my new Christmas By Ear book as part of her first tip!



It’s time to cue up our Thanksgiving listening playlist! Mine is Thanksgiving playlist is public on Spotify which means you can enjoy it as well! Here’s a sneak peek:



Thanksgiving piano music:

Now Thank We All Our God arranged by Leila Viss.

A Thanksgiving Prayer (elementary solo) by Wendy Stevens



As you know, the minute Thanksgiving is over, the world moves onto the Christmas/giving season. As you consider where you might be able to give even amidst rising prices in our own lives, consider these 10 Music-Based Organizations on #givingtuesday.



Our book club selection of the month is Bread & Wine by Shauna Niequist.

I’m only a few chapters in, but I can say without a doubt, it is a great book to be reading this season!

I can’t believe it was published in 2013 and I am just now reading it.

This book speaks to my soul so much! Highly recommended!



Eight Thanksgiving-themed games activities from Susan Paradis.

My two favorites from her I pull out every year at this time are Chasing the Turkey and Save the Turkey



From my kitchen to yours, here are some of my favorite holiday recipes, music, kitchen gadgets, and more. 



For your group performance classes: Pumpkin pie listening thermometers



Two songs I love to sing this time of year:

Come Thou Fount (I Will Sing) by Chris Tomlin. It beautifully combines the best of the timeless hymn with a contemporary bridge (I Will Sing).

This next song, written by Keith and Kristy Getty, focuses on spiritual blessings.

My Heart is Filled with Thankfulness by Keith and Kristyn Getty.



Music Teacher Eats: A Week of Easy, Healthy Meals (Fall Edition)

Are you a piano teacher (or independent music teacher of any instrument?) 

Does the schedule of your occupation create obstacles in food planning/meals making you feel like you’re in a rut or frequently in “survival” mode?

Then, this post is for you!

Thanks to my good friend, Christina Whitlock, creator of the Beyond Measure Podcast, I’ve found a fun way to pull food fun into the mix a little more here!

Here’s a snippet into a text between the two of us several months ago (shared with permission 🙂 ).

Can you relate to her sentiments? 🙂

Thanks to her, I’m launching this new blog post series called “Music Teacher Eats: A Week of Easy, Healthy Meals”. You can look forward to a new edition of this series coming out at least once a season (fall, winter, spring, summer) and possibly even some holiday versions.

Before we continue, a few disclaimers:

First, I will do my best to meet Christina’s request of easy, healthy, and can be done in 30 minutes or less after teaching (assuming a little prep work has been done 🙂 – see the post: Food Prep and the Studio Schedule for more on that!)

Second, as we all know, the words “easy” and “healthy” can mean completely different things to different people. I vow to do my best to take an overall general approach to both of these words and will also keep in mind that some of you (unlike me) may be serving families with kids.

Third, all of the recipes I suggest here are ones that I have tried and love. I may not be a recipe website, but I cook A LOT and am really picky about quality recipes. Rest easy that everything I share today is a recipe worth keeping. 

Fourth, while I cook a LOT from the subscription sites America’s Test Kitchen and Milk Street, I avoided including recipes from them. (It was hard though because their recipes are soooo good!) All recipes included can be found for free online.

I hope you find something in this suggested weekly meal plan that’s new, exciting, and most importantly, useful in easing the burden of meal planning as a studio music teacher!

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Food Prep and the Studio Schedule

Are you wondering why in the world you’re seeing a food post on a piano teacher blog? 

Well, first of all, if you don’t know me already, besides piano teaching, one of my life passions is cooking.

Second, we eat, right?

Third, as we can all attest, the schedule of the independent music teacher can make mealtime a struggle – especially if you have a family. After school and early evening is prime time for both music lessons AND asking the universal question “what’s for supper?” If you’re the person in your family who’s generally in charge of mealtime, this can make for a real struggle!

Today I want to share with you my three biggest food prep tips for keeping your meal-time work efficient and organized. Then, when you walk out the door of your studio late evening, you can breathe easy knowing dinner will be ready in a jiffy.

Also, stay tuned for a new post series coming up called Music Teacher Eats for meal plan ideas that are easy, healthy, and quick to prepare!

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Friday Finds #233: Best of October



A Holiday Season Survival Guide for Piano Teachers (Mallory Byers | Alfred Music Blog)



If you’re an MTNA member with an established studio and teaching professionally for no more than three years, consider applying for the MarySue Harris Studio Teacher Fellowship. It’s a wonderful opportunity for new teachers and one I wish I knew about when I first started my studio.



You guys, I have developed a serious hobby of creating playlists on Spotify. My husband gets the biggest kick out of it. Over Fall break last week we traveled to Virginia Beach for a speaking session on digital management strategies I gave to a local group there. On the way home I created two: Indiana, My State, and Halloween.



An Indiana town is wooing new residents with on-demand grandparents. (NPR) Is this absolutely beautiful or what?



No time for Theory in piano lessons? Copy J.S. Bach’s time-saving approach! (Rebekah Maxner) Not the first time I’ve heard this idea but for some reason, Rebekah really made it come alive and really inspired me to start doing this.


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Contributor to MTNA’s *NEW* Quarterly Business Digest

Are you a member of MTNA (Music Teacher’s National Association)? If so, you may or may not have caught their most recent venture – a quarterly Business Digest!


The growth of MTNA’s business resources has been an important focus and implementation for current president Karen Thickstun.

One of the first projects (that I know of) was developing the Business Resources section of the MTNA website.


After Karen started her MTNA Presidency this past March, she passed the reigns on the new Email Business Digest to Beth Klingenstein.

You all likely know me well enough that piano teacher resources are the name of my game as I’ve been writing the weekly Friday Finds series since the blog started!

Thus, I have joined a team of several other teachers led by Beth to bring you this quarterly digest! 

I’m working on two sections: “Resource Gems” (along with fellow teacher Jennifer Walschap), and  “Technology Tips and Tools” (along with fellow teacher Jennifer Stadler)

I hope you will find these resources to be invaluable for running your own independent music studio!

If you’re not a member of MTNA, consider joining today!

Friday Finds #232: Music Staff Magnet Boards



On a recent “Your Questions Answered” post on what method and theory books I use, a reader shared in a comment about a resource she was using and loving called Easy Notes by Rebecca Wilson.

One of the tools in this series is a pretty cool magnet board which, after having a look myself on her recommendation, inspired this week’s finds. First of all, I thought it might be nice to hear directly from this reader on why she loves Easy Notes.

I have recently found and love Easy Notes by Rebecca Wilson (find it at There are two workbooks, as well as charming character magnet manipulatives. I have used mnemonics, not because I thought it was the way to go, but because I didn’t know there was a better way (yes, I use intervals some too).

Easy Notes teaches note names (four octaves) through stories. It’s simple and whimsical, and the students really like it. Most importantly, it is making a difference in their note reading.

I only happened upon her and her new creation when I watched a webinar. I think she’s from New Zealand. The workbooks used to be $10 each but are now $18 each, but I recommend the Easy Notes Teachers Kit (with Large Magnetic Stave) for $109.99. The Easy Note Student Kit (with Small Magnetic Stave) is $99.99, is fine, too, but I just like having more space between the treble and bass staff.

-Ginny G.



E-Z Notes

This was the first magnet board I purchased. I love that it’s compact, double-sided, and has multi-colored magnets that come along with it. I did find the space above and below the staff a bit cramped for teaching ledger line notes though.

Lots of other great resources available on this site as well.



After E-Z Notes, my next find for a magnet board was from Musical Escapades. Similar to E-Z notes, I like the compact size of the board and multi-colored magnets that accompany it. It’s not doubled-sided like E-Z notes but there is more space for ledger line notes.

I find both the E-Z Notes and Musical Escapades staff board magnets to be a bit small to manipulate but with the more compact size, that’s to be expected.


4, besides a staff magnet board she also has a great music note slider tool as well.



Here are some really cool roll-up magnetic-backed boards!



Many of these listed above as well as others are (of course!) available on Amazon.



Want a cost-effective option? Check out Susan Paradis’s “do-it-yourself” version!


What am I missing? 

Do you have any other great music staff magnet board resources to add to the mix? Share in the comments!